If you’ve recently read anything about getting ahead at work, you might have read that people with high emotional intelligence (EI) are more likely to get hired, promoted and earn better salaries. But what is EI and why is it so important?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and regulate one’s emotions and understand the emotions the others. A high EQ helps you to build relationships, reduce team stress, defuse conflict and improve job satisfaction. Ultimately, a high EI means having the potential to increase team productivity and staff retention. That’s why when it comes to recruiting management roles, employers look to hire and promote candidates with a high ‘EQ’ (emotional quotient) – rather than IQ (intelligence quotient).
Identifying the importance of EI, La Trobe researchers Dr Leila Karimi, Professor Sandra Leggat and Professor Tim Bartram have recently developed emotional intelligence training for healthcare employees. This training helps healthcare professionals excel while dealing with potentially emotionally taxing challenges like caring for ageing and dying people.
EI is important for everyone who wants to be career ready. Drawing on the work of Daniel Goleman, below are five pillars of emotional intelligence and how they give you an advantage in the workforce.
Self-awareness is the ability to recognise one’s emotions, emotional triggers, strengths, weaknesses, motivations, values and goals and understand how these affect one’s thoughts and behaviour.
If you’re feeling stressed, annoyed, uninspired or deflated in your role, for example, it’s important to take the time to check-in with yourself and investigate why you might be feeling this way. When you’re able to label the emotion and understand its cause, you’re in a much better place to address the issue with appropriate action, such as putting your hand-up to take on additional work that might inspire you or finding productive ways to deal with a difficult colleague.
Drawing on one’s self-awareness, self-management is the ability to regulate one’s emotions. Everyone – including those with a high EQ – experiences bad moods, impulses and negative emotions like anger and stress, but self-management is the ability to control these emotions rather than having them control you.
This could mean delaying response to highly stressful or aggressive situations. Deciding to sleep on that angry email or phone call means you can react thoughtfully and with a clear-head, rather than impulsively. Negative emotions and impulsive behaviour not only negatively affects those around you, but can take a toll on your wellbeing too.
Motivation is essentially what moves us to take action. When we face setbacks and obstacles, checking in with our motives is what inspires us to keep pushing forward.
Those with low motivation are more likely to be risk-averse (rather than problem-solvers), anxious and quick to throw in the towel. Their lack of motivation may also lead them to express negative feelings about project goals and duties, which can impact team morale.
Those motived by ‘achievement’ and doing work they’re proud of, on the other hand, are more likely to ask for feedback, monitor their progress, push themselves and strive to continually improve their skills, knowledge and output. It’s easy to see why people with high motivation are an asset to any team.
Empathy is the ability to connect emotionally with others and take into consideration their feelings, concerns and points of view. It’s an important skill to have when negotiating with internal and external stakeholders and customers, as it enables one to anticipate the other’s needs and reaction.
In today’s workforce, emotionally savvy and intelligent managers assemble diverse teams whose unique perspectives and strengths they can leverage. Empathy is a key part of welcoming and appreciating different points of view to solve problems and come up with innovative ways forward.
Empathy is also essential for team harmony. Noticing and responding to the emotional needs of the people you work with makes for a happy work culture.
Relationship management is all about interpersonal skills – one’s ability to build genuine trust, rapport and respect from colleagues. This is about more than the cliché of a trust fall during a team building exercise – it’s about trusting and being trusted in a team.
A manager with outstanding relationship management skills is able to inspire, guide and develop their team members, greatly affecting team performance and productivity.
Final thoughts: although emotional intelligence seems to come naturally to some, our brain’s plasticity means we can increase our emotional intelligence if we’re willing to put in the work.